So, what is the law regarding underage drinking?
It is illegal for anyone to buy or consume alcohol until 21 years of age.
Consequences of Underage Drinking
Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience
- School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
- Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
- Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
- Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
- Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
- Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
- Physical and sexual assault.
- Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
- Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
- Memory problems.
- Misuse of other drugs.
- Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
- Death from alcohol poisoning.
In general, the risk of youth experiencing these problems is greater for those who binge drink than for those who do not binge drink.
Early initiation of drinking is associated with development of an alcohol use disorder later in life.
Effects of Alcohol
The effects of alcohol are dangerous. Alcohol affects parts of the brain that control movement, speech, judgment and memory. Heavy consumption can lead to blurred vision, slowed speech, impaired memory and difficulty walking.
Statistics on alcohol abuse in the United States:
- In 2014, 16.3 million adults ages 18 and older had an alcohol use disorder. That is nearly 7 percent of the age group.
- In 2014, about 679,000 adolescents ages 12–17 had an AUD, or nearly 3 percent of the age group.
- Nearly 35 percent of 15-year-olds reported that they have had at least one drink in their lives.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This alters a person’s perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing.
It is common for peers to shame individuals for turning down a drink. A study published in Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal found shame to be the strongest predictor of vulnerability to peer pressure.
Teens are most likely to give into shame. A study published in PeerJ suggests early life experiences are a predictor of someone’s vulnerability to shame, specifically those abused as children. The report also linked shame with substance abuse.
You may be ridiculed, not invited to future get-togethers or lose relationships with certain individuals. However, this should not discourage you.
Don’t be a victim of someone else’s behaviors. Make sure there is someone to call if you are feeling pressured to drink in social situations. Plan an escape if the temptation becomes great. Your peers should not control your decisions, so don’t let them.
Surround yourself with strong people. Spending time with friends who resist peer pressure or avoid alcohol altogether increases your likelihood of doing the same. This positive influence may be helpful.
If you or someone you know has developed an alcohol abuse problem, The Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network could help.
Outcomes of Saying No
Resisting peer pressure can be difficult, but the pros of doing so far outweigh the cons.
Saying no to alcohol despite peer pressure has a host of benefits, as individuals:
- Avoid effects of alcohol
- Increase chances of arriving home safely
- Avoid driving while intoxicated
- Feel more self-control and confidence
Less alcohol consumption could give way to a healthier lifestyle, letting you engage in safe activities alongside loved ones. You avoid the consequences of alcohol, stressful situations and negative influences.